With the 2023 NFL Draft in the books, Dalton Del Don examines some of the fantasy biggest risers and fallers with rosters mostly locked in ahead of the upcoming season.
Seahawks make us reassess stars
Kenneth Walker III remains a top-12 back on my board even after Seattle drafted Zach Charbonnet in the second round. While Walker was the NFL’s most boom-or-bust runner last season, Charbonnet had the highest Success Rate on first and second down. The rookie also figures to be more active as a receiver and used in the screen game more than Walker. But Charbonnet wasn’t a top-50 pick, and Seattle made the move out of necessity to help a backfield badly missing depth. The Seahawks had a top-10 offense last year and added JSN, so more touchdowns should come for Walker in 2023. Coach Pete Carroll typically makes rookies “earn it,” and the impressive Walker finished last season rushing for 100+ yards in three straight games.
With no WR going inside the top-20 picks and Jaxon Smith-Njigba landing with the Seahawks, 2023 rookie wideouts don’t figure to come close to matching last year’s terrific draft class. JSN can be a top-35 fantasy receiver in a Seattle offense with a condensed target tree, but the Seahawks weren't an ideal landing spot. DK Metcalf has been heavily reliant on volume and could take a real hit in fantasy value with fewer targets. Tyler Lockett should be just fine playing more outside, and Geno Smith deserves a boost.
Lions rookies should provide fantasy juice
Jahmyr Gibbs was one of the drafts clearest winners joining a Detroit offense that produced the most expected RB fantasy points last season. Newcomer David Montgomery will get plenty of carries, but Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift are both gone. Meanwhile, Gibbs is a special receiving back who joined Christian McCaffrey as the only first-round RBs since 2011 to record a 15%+ reception share in multiple seasons. Swift was a top-20 fantasy back in points per game last season despite playing just 41.7% of snaps (while hurt). Gibbs will have more fantasy value in full PPR, but he’s going to have a ton in any format. The surging Lions offense ranked top-five in yards per play in 2022 and plenty of targets are available with Jameson Williams suspended for six games and with DJ Chark and Swift out of town. Gibbs should be immediately treated as a top-15 fantasy back.
Sam LaPorta is another fantasy winner. The tight end will be joining a Lions offense that averaged the fifth-most points per game last season (and easily the most at home) with a bunch of vacated targets. Despite trading TJ Hockenson, Detroit’s tight ends combined for the third-most touchdowns (12) and the second-most fantasy points. LaPorta easily led all tight end prospects in breaking tackles last season and is a fantasy sleeper as a rookie.
Bijan Robinson to the moon
Robinson is an elite prospect with big time receiving ability and top-10 draft capital. He’s the No. 3 fantasy back on my board — ahead of Saquon Barkley. All we need is Desmond Ridder to be competent Year 2 in an offense also featuring Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Robinson is a legit talent who gets to play indoors and in a terrific rushing system in Atlanta that returns four offensive line starters from PFF’s #1 run-blocking unit. He won’t make it out of the first round of fantasy drafts.
Will rookie QBs make fantasy impact?
Bryce Young separated himself as the best QB of this rookie class despite his height, but his fantasy value should be limited to Superflex leagues while playing outdoors and with limited weapons. Anthony Richardson, meanwhile, has far more fantasy upside given his rushing ability. AR is no doubt a project, but he appears likely to be given a chance early. Richardson’s athleticism is truly off the charts and helps solidify Jonathan Taylor as fantasy’s No. 2 RB entering 2023. Meanwhile, Will Levis rightfully fell out of the first round.
Two receivers on the rise
• Jordan Addison is likely a more flawed receiver prospect than JSN but landed in a near perfect fantasy situation as Minnesota’s clear WR2 with Adam Thielen gone. Playing indoors in a Vikings offense that had Kirk Cousins attempt 643 passes last season, Addison should be the favorite to lead rookies in targets. He’s my top ranked fantasy rookie wideout.
• The Texans are co-favorites to draft first in 2024 (and the other is locked in at quarterback with Kyler Murray), so there’s an argument they would’ve been better off showing patience at QB and waiting for a possible generational talent in Caleb Williams. That said, Nico Collins was a sneaky fantasy winner over the weekend with Houston drafting C.J. Stroud but not much target competition. Collins was quietly an air yardage hog when on the field last season, and Brandin Cooks left to Dallas. Collins’ early ADP has been comically low as barely a top-175 pick.